Hello! Current USC Film School Writing for Screen and Television (MFA) student here. AMA!

panda

Member
Hey! Last year, this forum helped me survive the waiting period (soon-to-come for all of you, it's as horrendous as it sounds) and the stress that comes with sending your writing off to people you've never met.

I thought I'd come back and host an AMA-style thread if you have any questions about the program. I'll check up on this each week and answer them to the best of my abilities.

(Could also potentially answer some production questions as well.)

Good luck!
 
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Hi there! Glad I stumbled upon this thread, and I hope you're still willing to doll out advice!

I'm most anxious about the personal statements, which for USC come in the form of the autobiographical character sketch and the most challenging moment. My question is how best can I avoid cliche? I haven't really read a lot of MFA personal statements before, and I don't want to give them something that's been done a million times.

What advice do you have for making these stand out?

Thanks a million, and congratulations on getting in!
 

panda

Member
@moni4liberty Yes, still willing!

That's a good question. It's also one that's pretty difficult to answer. Your hope, ultimately, is that the person reading your statements remembers you. Being completely open and honest about yourself is probably the most important thing. You're the only you, so your stories and perspectives only belong to you. Personal statements are just another form of storytelling in the end.

Let them into your head so they see the world through your eyes, and then make them feel something. Writing that's emotionally moving, in whatever way, tends to be the most powerful and memorable writing, right? At least that's my opinion.

Hope this helps!
 

shish

New Member
Hey! Last year, this forum helped me survive the waiting period (soon-to-come for all of you, it's as horrendous as it sounds) and the stress that comes with sending your writing off to people you've never met. Who have the power to judge it. And thereby judge you. No biggie.

I thought I'd come back and host an AMA-style thread if you have any questions about the program. I'll check up on this each week and answer them to the best of my abilities. I just finished up my fourth week (as a 1st year), so it's only recently begun... but it's as incredible as you can imagine.

(Could also potentially answer some production questions as well.)

Good luck!

Hey! Thanks for starting this forum, I'm feeling super nervous about the results. I know we're supposed to hear back by the end of October, but the waiting is making me super anxious. I applied to the USC MFA Film & TV Production (Spring 2017) Program. When did you hear about your decision and whats your favourite thing about the course?
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
Hey Panda!

It's not really about the program, but are there any screenwriting books that your professors have recommended or any scripts that they rave about? What can one do to prepare for an excellent experience at USC / excellent career in general?
 

panda

Member
Hey! Thanks for starting this forum, I'm feeling super nervous about the results. I know we're supposed to hear back by the end of October, but the waiting is making me super anxious. I applied to the USC MFA Film & TV Production (Spring 2017) Program. When did you hear about your decision and whats your favourite thing about the course?
Just curious, did you apply anywhere else in addition to USC? I found out March 4th after applying in November, but your timeline will be different if it's for the Spring 2017 program.

My favorite part of the program is the people you meet (both faculty and students). Everyone here is incredibly driven and hardworking, and a few faculty members have Academy Awards under their belts. I've had the opportunity to work on a few short films with Production students, and I think they'd say the same.
 

panda

Member
Hey Panda!

It's not really about the program, but are there any screenwriting books that your professors have recommended or any scripts that they rave about? What can one do to prepare for an excellent experience at USC / excellent career in general?
Hey! I've only spoken with my feature script professor about favorite scripts, but a few of hers are Fargo (tight structure), Juno (character), and Drive (building character through action). I also really like the script for Up in the Air.

As far as books go, these are the ones that have been recommended:
Writing the TV Drama Series, Pamela Douglas
Your Screenplay Sucks, William M. Ackers
Writing for Fun and Profit, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (outdated but still has useful information)
 

freshmiao

New Member
Hey! Thanks for starting this forum, I'm feeling super nervous about the results. I know we're supposed to hear back by the end of October, but the waiting is making me super anxious. I applied to the USC MFA Film & TV Production (Spring 2017) Program. When did you hear about your decision and whats your favourite thing about the course?
I applied it as well. I'm with you. Nervous and anxious. I haven't heard anything from USC though. You? Anyone?
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
Hey! I've only spoken with my feature script professor about favorite scripts, but a few of hers are Fargo (tight structure), Juno (character), and Drive (building character through action). I also really like the script for Up in the Air.

As far as books go, these are the ones that have been recommended:
Writing the TV Drama Series, Pamela Douglas
Your Screenplay Sucks, William M. Ackers
Writing for Fun and Profit, Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (outdated but still has useful information)
Awesome, thanks! I have not heard of Writing for Fun and Profit so I'll definitely give that a look.

For the short, 2-5 page scenes, what do you think USC is looking for? It doesn't have to be a full/completed short script (just a scene) so I don't think they're looking for plot/pacing. Creativity / strength of characters, perhaps? Or just an enticing premise within a few short pages?
 

Point Break

Member
For the short, 2-5 page scenes, what do you think USC is looking for? It doesn't have to be a full/completed short script (just a scene) so I don't think they're looking for plot/pacing. Creativity / strength of characters, perhaps? Or just an enticing premise within a few short pages?
You'd be surprised what stories you can tell in 2-5 pages. Character strength and enticing premises are probably secondary to character flaws and compelling scenes/shorts that present unexpected, but somehow inevitable resolutions at the end.

My cohort had many different samples, so it's hard to say what USC is specifically looking for (beyond storytellers). It may not have to be a full script, but it should be a complete scene that pushes the characters to new ground by the end.
 

Kira

MFA TV Writer @UCLA
You'd be surprised what stories you can tell in 2-5 pages. Character strength and enticing premises are probably secondary to character flaws and compelling scenes/shorts that present unexpected, but somehow inevitable resolutions at the end.

My cohort had many different samples, so it's hard to say what USC is specifically looking for (beyond storytellers). It may not have to be a full script, but it should be a complete scene that pushes the characters to new ground by the end.
Thanks, Point Break. The first few versions that I wrote were "complete" stories, but I was trying for too much. If you're writing about the tragedies of war, go with a child's discarded toy, right? :p

Point Break, what do you expect your portfolio to contain now that you are in your second year? (Ie. 2 specs, 3 pilots, etc.)
 

Point Break

Member
If you're writing about the tragedies of war, go with a child's discarded toy, right? :p

Point Break, what do you expect your portfolio to contain now that you are in your second year? (Ie. 2 specs, 3 pilots, etc.)
Yeah, simplicity is everyone's friend. If they can remember something special or personal about your sample, it goes a long way.

Well, everyone will take 2 feature classes, 1 spec tv script, and 1 original tv pilot class. You also choose one more script for thesis... Beyond that, you can take whatever other classes you want or write during the breaks to strengthen or add to your bag-o-scripts.

Although I personally have more, I'm looking to sharpen 1 pilot and 1 feature. Quality exceeds quantity in my case, but you could easily come out of this program with 6 or 7 scripts too.
 
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Iuli Dia

Member
Hey @panda . It's nice to see current students here and thank you for sharing with us!!! I was wondering if you have taken any classes on writing for animation? As far as writing for TV, are the professors open to an animated pilot?
 

panda

Member
Hey @panda . It's nice to see current students here and thank you for sharing with us!!! I was wondering if you have taken any classes on writing for animation? As far as writing for TV, are the professors open to an animated pilot?
Nope, I haven't taken any animation writing courses. The animation division does offer a writing course, though, that you'd likely be able to get clearance for. The things you learn in your TV and film courses are valuable for any type of storytelling, though, and I did have a classmate write an animated feature for my feature class last semester. Perhaps you could write an animated pilot your second semester of the program, though I've never personally heard of anyone doing that.

What I do know is that SCA is very encouraging when it comes to cross-division collaboration and I don't think you'd have any problems if you were to reach out to the animation division once here to ask for opportunities to collaborate with animators. Hope this helps.
 

Iuli Dia

Member
Nope, I haven't taken any animation writing courses. The animation division does offer a writing course, though, that you'd likely be able to get clearance for. The things you learn in your TV and film courses are valuable for any type of storytelling, though, and I did have a classmate write an animated feature for my feature class last semester. Perhaps you could write an animated pilot your second semester of the program, though I've never personally heard of anyone doing that.

What I do know is that SCA is very encouraging when it comes to cross-division collaboration and I don't think you'd have any problems if you were to reach out to the animation division once here to ask for opportunities to collaborate with animators. Hope this helps.
Yes that helps. Thank you!
 

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